Anna Hakobyan, wife of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, was in Memphis Friday, April 12 to sign an agreement with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Armenia Becomes First Country to Join St. Jude Alliance to Battle Pediatric Cancer

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MEMPHIS and LOS ANGELES (Combined Sources) — Anna Hakobyan, the wife of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, concluded her tour of the US, during which she focused on raising funds for the treatment of cancer-stricken children in Armenia.

On April 12, Armenia became the first country to join the St. Jude Global Alliance, a multimillion-dollar effort launched last year to improve treatment for children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries by 30 percent over the next decade.

Hakobyan visited Memphis, Tenn., the headquarters of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where she signed the agreement.

Her visit to the US has raised much-needed funds for the City of Smile Foundation, which helps pay for the treatment of children at the Muratsan Pediatric Cancer Clinic in Yerevan. Her visit to Boston alone raised more than $150,000 for the hospital. (https://mirrorspectator.com/2019/04/11/city-of-smile-banquet-is-great-success-with-headliner-anna-hakobyan/)

To date, City of Smile has raised enough funding to fully support the care of 120 children.

“Childhood cancer is quite expensive. Support from the foundations is really essential,” said Dr. Gevorg Tamamyan, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Armenia. “These foundations are trying to help the kids receive appropriate care regardless of their ability to pay, so every child receives appropriate care and no one is left out if they don’t have the resources.”

Anna Hakobyan with Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan and Consul Dr. Armen Baibourtian and guest in Los Angeles

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“When you work in a limited-resource setting, you have a lot of challenges you need to overcome — the drugs, the personnel, the research capacity, education opportunities, lack of awareness and so on,” Tamamyan said.

By joining the St. Jude Global Alliance, Armenia will join other countries all working to solve the challenges of treating pediatric oncology and make treatment and diagnosis available to all children, regardless of nationality or geographic location.

“It’s a way to develop our capacity, improve our results, to learn and to exchange our ideas and to make more kids healthier,” Tamamyan said.

Armenia is a critical region for St. Jude’s global effort, including the eastern Mediterranean and Eurasian regions.

“They have been critical in helping organize and provide support,” said Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, chair of St. Jude’s Department of Global Pediatric Medicine.

Neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan are anticipated to follow Armenia’s lead to join the St. Jude Global Alliance, as well as many other regions not only in the caucuses, but in the former Soviet Republic areas.

Rodriguez-Galindo classified the 2018 Armenian revolution as critical to the success of the partnership.

“Whenever you see the will of the people to create a better country, a better world, a better life for every one of their citizens, things start changing, and that’s what happened in Armenia,” he said.

Tamamyan was among the St. Jude national outreach participants who came to St. Jude in 2012. Since that time, he has been closely collaborating with St. Jude, which in February resulted in the opening of the Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Armenia.

In the US, the cure rate for children with cancer is 80 percent, but that is not the reality for the rest of the world.

Medical Society Gala in LA

The Armenian Medical Society (AAMS) and their community of supporters gathered together at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Los Angeles on April 6, to celebrate the work of the organization and honor the achievements of two extraordinary individuals.

The AAMS Executive Board with Anna Hakobyan

Hakobyan was the keynote speaker. She addressed the importance of having the capabilities to provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art cancer treatment for children afflicted with cancer in their homeland, and to receive this care regardless of the family’s ability to pay. Hakobyan noted that in less-developed countries, such as Armenia, cancer is often equal to a death sentence, but with proper treatment and resources, it can be overcome.

“We are gathered here today to support these children,” said Hakobyan. “Together we can fight for every child with cancer and it is our obligation to not let them lose the fight due to lack of resources. City of Smile Foundation was established to change their lives, to move them in a positive direction, and to bring a smile to the face of these children and their families. We are starting it by saving one smile at a time. Tonight, there are hundreds of people present which means so many people are standing by the sides of these children and their parents and giving a piece of hope and a hand of support.”

Armenian American Medical Society President, Armond Kotikian, DDS, MD, FACS, was thrilled with this year’s response to the need. “Our partnership with City of Smile created an opportunity for our organization to make a real and meaningful impact the lives of children suffering from oncological and hematological diseases in the heart of Armenia,” he said. “Seeing how so many people opened their hearts to the foundation and generously gave so that these children can receive the care they so desperately need was truly remarkable.”

Serj Tankian, singer, poet, songwriter, visual artist, activist, composer and the voice of System of a Down, was honored with the AAMS lifetime achievement award. Humble in his acceptance, Tankian noted the importance of working together to provide the basics for students, patients, veterans, and the most disenfranchised in the homeland. “We need to find more ways to help organizations, such as City of Smile, reach their objectives in our new, free, independent, and hopeful Armenia,” remarked Tankian.

During her visit to Los Angeles, Hakobyan also participated in a gala celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the Consulate General in the city.

During her visit to the US, Hakobyan also visited Washington, DC and New York.

(Parts of a story by Michelle Corbet of the Daily Memphian were used in this report.)

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